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Juggling Childcare and Running an Online Business

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Tried and Tested Practical Strategies

Running an online business whilst being the main care provider for your children during summer school holidays can be a daunting task. As a business owner and a parent, finding a balance between work and family is crucial for your personal well-being and your business success!

My four children are all grown up now, but I clearly remember the six weeks of the summer school holidays would bring a mix of relief and anxiety in equal measures. No more frantic shouting as we’re late for the school run. Instead I would be wondering: ”What the hell am I going to do with them for the next six weeks?”

Here are some of my tried and tested practical strategies to help you navigate this challenging terrain and create a more harmonious environment for both your business and your family! (fingers crossed)

Prioritise and Resist Taking on Additional Work:

While it may be tempting to take on extra projects when they land in your inbox, DO NOT be tempted during school holidays! Overloading yourself with work will only increase stress levels. Often pushing back a couple of weeks or even a month is an easy compromise - your prospective client may well be attempting a similar balancing act as yourself! And there’s nothing to stop you from onboarding them in July/Aug with a start date of September. This has worked really well for me in the past. I even set them a little bit of summer prep homework! (I’ve actually onboarded for a September start this week!)

Baby boy in highchair asleep. Satsuma on the tray.

Outsource Tasks - but it’s not what you think!

Recognise that you can't do it all alone. Consider outsourcing certain tasks that are time-consuming or outside your expertise. I’m not talking virtual assistant, social media manager or online business manager in this instance! I mean a cleaner, a babysitter, dogwalker, someone to prep your meals. And you know who would be perfect for this kind of work …. a neighbour back from uni who is looking for some extra £££s to sort out that overdraft! This is something that all my kids have done during the summer months - they’ve been a ‘helping hand’ for local (female) business owners. They’ve taken on making lunches, taking kids to play dates, making the evening meal, baking with the kids, supervising the summer homework (an absolute favourite), tutoring, food shopping. The list goes on!

It’s actually really easy to hire a uni student for a short amount of time - say 1-2 months for a few hours a day. It’s a win-win! Put a post on the local Facebook group or pop a note through the doors of likely candidates and see what you get back.

Three young men and a young woman sitting on a sofa smiling at the camera

Establish a Daily Routine:

Creating a structured daily routine for both your children and yourself can provide a sense of stability and help manage expectations. Set specific work hours during the day when you can focus on your business tasks, and communicate this schedule to your children.Similarly, establish dedicated blocks of time for family activities and quality time. Having a routine in place allows everyone to know what to expect, minimising disruptions and maximising productivity.

Two boys playing outside. One has a pretend sword and the other is pretending to be caught

Create a Visual Calendar:

Print off a calendar for the school holidays and map out the activities and events happening during that period. Involve your children in the process so they can see what's planned and have something to look forward to. Remember not to fill every day, as it can be both financially and emotionally exhausting. Building in rest days for yourself and your family is essential for recharging and keeping a healthy work-life balance.

Set Clear Boundaries:

Establishing clear boundaries with your children is essential for maintaining a productive work environment. Communicate to your kids that there will be designated work times when you need uninterrupted focus. Set up a visual cue, such as a closed office door or a designated workspace, to signify when you are in work mode. Encourage your children to respect these boundaries and understand that they should only interrupt you for urgent matters. This helps create a balance between your business commitments and being present for your children.

Small boy sitting on steps with a fizzy drip holding out his hand with his brother in the distance looking like he is small in the boys hand.

Teach Responsibility through Chores and the value of time:

The day I mapped out how to use the washing machine using simple drawings and post-it notes was a game changer! Suddenly I had four extra humans who could wash and dry the laundry. By involving them in household tasks, you not only lighten your load but also teach them important life skills and the value of time. Chores like weeding, cleaning out the car, or helping with simple meal preparation can be both educational and rewarding for children. Let them earn their fun activities and entertainment by completing these tasks, which will also give you more time to focus on your business. At home we used time as a currency a lot!

EG - If the kids took 50 mins to prepare the dinner and clean out the car then I would drive them to a friend's house that was 15 mins away. Making them understand that dropping them off at a mate’s house would actually be 60 mins of my time (15 mins there and back and then the same journey collecting them later). I know that they respected our time a lot more once we started ‘dealing in time’.

Two boys in rugby kit sitting by a brick wall looking happy

Continue Making Packed Lunches:

Even if you're not going anywhere, packing lunches for your children can be a gamechanger when it comes to juggling work and childcare. Knowing that your kids can have their meals on the lounge floor or in the garden with minimal supervision allows you to focus on your work while ensuring they are well-fed and occupied. It reduces interruptions and keeps them engaged, providing you with precious (mostly) uninterrupted work time.

A girl and younger boy dressed up as pirates

Communicate with Clients:

Let your clients know that you are juggling childcare responsibilities during the school holidays. Most likely, some of your clients are experiencing similar situations and will understand your circumstances. By communicating openly, you can set realistic expectations regarding response times and work availability, which will foster a stronger working relationship.

Utilise Out of Office Messages:

Set up an Out of Office message during the school holidays to create a buffer and filter incoming emails. Your message just needs to say something like:

“Thanks for your email, it’s arrived safely in my inbox. For the next few weeks I will be working limited hours as the children are on school holidays. Please allow a little extra time for me to get back to you. If your message is urgent, please resend your email with the word URGENT in the subject line.”

This simple step helps manage expectations and allows you to prioritise your work effectively.

A boy and girl on an old ship smiling at the camera

Arrange a childcare swap

This was always a winner for me. And there is no rule to say that you have to work on your business whilst you are child-free! Even if this is only a couple of afternoons throughout the whole of the summer school holidays - it’s really something to look forward to.

I would find that when my kids had their friends over they were nicer to one another and kept themselves occupied for longer. So have more than four children in the house really didn’t feel like more work.

Of course when you’re the lucky one who drops off their children with a like-minded business owner, your child-free time is your time to do whatever you like - be it a marketing strategy afternoon, completing that online training course you bought OR going to the cinema by yourself (yes, I have done this!).

And Finally…

Remember, every family and business situation is unique, these tips and strategies are what worked for the Forde Family. The summer holiday juggle is hard! And there is no magic wand or bullet-proof plan that will make it easy. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. What I would say is, be kind to yourself. There is no ‘Good Work Award’ for doing it all by yourself, so don’t try. And let me leave you with something that I read recently which has really resonated with me - as a parent but also as a child myself.

In 20 years time, the only people who will remember how late you worked are your children.

(The picture below is of myself and James - one year in to parenting, 27 years ago. We didn't have a clue what we were doing, but we were - and are - a great team 😊)

Young parents with their baby daughter in a pushchair

If you want some more guidance on how to create the ultimate organised online business then download my free handbook. I walk you through all the important steps you need to take so that your business engine room runs smoothly and efficiently. Reducing your stress levels and giving you more time and headspace to be creative with your business and do the things you love.

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